President Obama speaks Oct. 30 on health care at Faneuil Hall in Boston. (Jewel Samad / Getty Images)
President Obama promoted his embattled health care law Wednesday by arguing that a similar plan in Massachusetts surmounted its early problems.
“Health care reform in this state was a success,” Obama said during a speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the same place where then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts plan into law in 2006.
“That doesn’t mean it was perfect right away,” Obama added. “There were early problems to solve.”
With the rollout of Obamacare under fire from Republicans and some consumers, Obama said his plan will provide quality, affordable health care when it is fully operational.
Officials are “working overtime” to fix a website that has prevented many people from signing up, Obama said.
He also said that people who have had their insurance policies canceled are being offered better plans with more coverage as demanded by the Affordable Care Act.
“You’re going to get a better deal,” Obama said.
Obama also stressed that the Massachusetts law had bipartisan political support, a dig at Republicans who have consistently opposed the Obama plan.
Republicans said Obamacare has already been undermined by a malfunctioning website and people who have had policies canceled because of new regulations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama had promised people they could keep their existing insurance, and they now feel betrayed.
“A website can be fixed,” McConnell said. “But the pain this law is causing — higher premiums and canceled coverage — that’s what’s really important. And that’s what Democrats need to work with us to address by starting over fresh with true, bipartisan health reform.”
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, said health care policy should be a responsibility of the states and that Obama has misread the lessons of the Massachusetts experience.
In a Facebook post, Romney said: “Health reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally.”
Obama spoke just hours after congressional testimony by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who apologized for the poor website but also argued that the plan will work in the long run.
In his Boston speech, Obama said people who have had their insurance canceled had “cut-rate” policies that did not provide adequate coverage when people got sick.
The Affordable Care Act requires certain types of coverage and ends discrimination that has led to higher costs and cancellations for women and people with pre-existing medical conditions, the president said.
Some people will face higher costs, Obama said: “To help pay for the law, the wealthiest Americans, families who make more than $250,000 a year, have got to pay a little bit more. The most expensive employer health insurance plans no longer qualify for unlimited tax breaks.”
He said, “Some folks aren’t happy about that, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Obama also decried what he called the politics surrounding Obamacare, saying some Republicans who are attacking it didn’t want to overhaul health care in the first place.
“We are just going to keep on working at it,” Obama said. “We’re going to grind it out, just like you did here in Massachusetts.”
Jackson writes for USA Today.